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I'm often asked to define the personality traits of a great event planner. Of course, as is the case in all professions, there are many characteristics that combine to make a good event planner. But, if forced to choose just one, I would have to go with exceptional organizational skills.
I get a lot of inquiries about event planning templates. It's probably the number one search on my website. But when I delve a little deeper into those requests, I start to see a pattern evolve and it hits me that people really just want somebody to give them that “magic formula” that, if followed, will result in a wildly successful event. If only it were that easy. Scour the Internet, find and use any one of hundreds of event planning checklists that are out there but, at the end of the day, a checklist is only as good as the person utilizing it.
So how do some planners pull off the most memorable events? Let's begin by looking at the various stages of an event. For this article I'm going to break it down into three stages:
Planning an Event
Personally, I love this stage of event planning. This is the stage where I let loose and get creative. No prejudging ideas. No overthinking the “logistics”. The focus here is on throwing out ideas that will help the planner to create an event that surpasses the client’s objectives. Just make the list!! Of course this is also the stage where your organizational skills are going to be put to good use. The two most important traits of successful event planners are "exceptional listening skills" and "outstanding organizational skills."
Planning an event starts with the “W5” (who, what, when, where, why):
- Who is attending?
- What are their expectations? When will the event occur (how much time do you have to put it all together)?
- Where is the event taking place? Does the location enhance the overall event or just provide logistical challenges?
- Why is your client hosting this event? This is key!! Are you trying to entertain, inform or just plain dazzle?
The planning stage of an event includes:
- Establishing a timeline.
- Establishing a budget.
- Defining the type of event you are attempting to create.
- Identifying the venues that could be utilized based on the type of event.
- Creating the team that you'll need to put together to successfully execute the event.
Promoting an Event
Moving past the “W5” stage of event creation, it's now time to think about how you're going to promote your event. Timing is crucial at this stage. If you already have an established, opt in, e-mail marketing list then you should be in pretty good shape to begin the event promotion phase. If you don’t already have a current “opt-in” list then you must start your marketing efforts by building one. This can be quite time consuming as you will need to qualify potential attendees and ensure that they are open to receiving your information prior to sending it out. Generating interest in the event often takes more than one email blast so be sure to build extra time into your marketing schedule. This is where it's crucial to understand the benchmarks of your industry's marketing trends. It's important that you have an understanding of what those targets are. Many planners choose to work with companies, like Benchmark Email, that are equipped to help you monitor such results. These companies also have excellent marketing templates available. No need to re-create the wheel with every component of your event. Just remember that your goal is to create marketing pieces that your target audience will actually open and read! Some factors to consider when creating your email marketing piece:
- What is your call to action (i.e. a draw, earlybird registration special etc.)?
- Are your open rates, click through rates and “opt-outs” better than industry averages?
- Are you engaging people (are they clicking to find out more information on an e-mail invitation promoting the event, etc.)?
- Most people need to be touched (figuratively - not literally) several times in order for the message to stick. It's important that you structure your marketing messages to peak interest with each mailing. To the point, of course, where they register. At this stage, it's important to monitor your opt-out rates. If your message is not structured properly, you may see your opt- out rates increase.
- What else are you doing to promote your event(social media, direct mailing, networking, etc.)?
Executing the Event
Typically, executing events involves working with various suppliers. This is where communication skills are an asset. Listening is key! It is so important that everybody working the event understands exactly what the client's expectations are. Key factors for executing the event include:
- Personally checking with the various suppliers to confirm their roles and timing. A pre-event review of the facility (cleanliness, all lights are working, bathrooms and service staff etc.).Walk through the venue(s) and look at EVERYTHING! Details! Details! Details will make or break it!
- A pre-meeting to review everybody's roles and discuss any last-minute updates that need to be communicated. I always make sure that all team members have pictures of my client as well as any VIPs that are expected. Smart phones come in handy for this.
- Checking on factors that are beyond your control (keeping up on weather, local traffic etc.) and ensureing that a backup is in place should it be needed.
They say the devil is in the details. The key to organizing a successful event is largely dependent on the organizational skills of the event planner. It's important to break the event into three manageable stages; planning, promoting and executing. This is literally what sets experienced event planners apart from the rest. It's all in the details.